March is Women's History Month. Thinking about women and history, what woman in your life most influenced your writing?
Since I am part of a roundtable discussion on this subject, I've been thinking about the women who have greatly influenced my writing. The one with the most profound inspiration for me was the late Jane Deringer.
When our daughter Amy was 14 years old, we received a telephone call from Rappahannock Community College inviting her to participate in a creative writing class they were offering. Amy had been in gifted programs for young writers since she was in the sixth grade, and I was happy for the opportunity for her to further develop her talents. However, since she wasn't old enough to drive, I drove the ten miles to the college and decided to take the evening class with her.
Jane was the instructor, and I loved her and I loved being in the class. With her encouragement and guidance, I started writing a romance novel. The class fascinated me. I enjoyed listening to others read what they were writing. Amy wrote as well, but she was growing up and didn't continue taking Jane's classes in the following years like I did.
When Jane encouraged me to become a member of the Richmond Branch of the National League of American Pen Women, I joined as an arts member. Since I was not published at the time, I did not qualify in letters. I learned about travel writing from Jane and from other members of Pen Women. With their helpful tips, I submitted travel articles and photographs to newspapers and magazines that published them. I was thrilled to actually get paid for my writing!
Jane was a huge advocate for writers. She encouraged everyone and actually started the Chesapeake Bay Writers Club. I was a charter member of that group. Roger Fulton was one of Jane's writing students. A retired police officer, he started the Police Writer's Club with Jane's help. That group is now the Public Safety Writers Association with members who are among my writing friends now. Jane also started the Chesapeake Bay Branch National League of American Pen Women. Since she needed six members to have a branch, I transferred my membership from Richmond and became a charter member of the new group.
Jane also planned an annual writer's conference at the community college that continued for at least 16 years. In the beginning the college served an outdoor barbeque as part of the event which became quite popular and drew people from several states. Each year she invited me to help with it, and on several occasions I was one of the speakers.
Because of her dedication to others, Jane didn't publish many books herself. She encouraged Dr. George Ritchie in his writing about his near-death experience. She was instrumental in many authors getting published, including me.
As writers and creative people of all types, we need mentors. These are people we will never forget. I will certainly always remember Jane Deringer and the influence she had on my writing life.
Simple Pleasures Books and Gifts is sponsoring the roundtable discussion March 26, 1 to 4 p.m. at Ashland Coffee and Tea in Ashland, VA about the women who influenced the lives of authors Ruth Doumlele, Sylvia Wright, Pamela Kinney, and Mary Montague Sikes. Due to a death in her family, Joanne Liggan is unable to participate.